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No Agreement Yet On Testing Language As Time Runs Out For Pre-Election Stimulus Bill

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House Speaker Pelosi said she remains “optimistic” that she can reach an agreement with the White House on the next federal coronavirus aid bill ahead of the Nov. 3 election, but major divisions still remain between the two camps—including on testing language, which at one point appeared to be resolved—and even if a deal is struck, it’s unclear whether enough Senate Republicans will vote in favor of the new bill. 

Key Facts

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Pelosi said that she has not yet reached a final agreement with the White House on a national Covid-19 testing plan—a major priority for the Democratic caucus. 

That’s a shift from the Speaker’s optimistic tone last week: she said Thursday that the two teams were “just about there” on the testing, tracing, and healthcare provisions in the bill after the White House had come around to Democrats’ proposed language. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is negotiating with Pelosi on behalf of the Trump administration, at one point told CNBC that the White House was prepared to accept the Democratic language on that issue with only “minor” edits, but Pelosi later said the White House had removed 55% of Democrats’ proposed legislative language.

“To do anything that does not crush the virus [Pelosi’s shorthand for the testing, tracing and healthcare provisions in the bill] is really official malfeasance,” the Speaker said. 

Chief Critic

Asked about the progress of the negotiations, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday morning that the Trump administration has “continued to make offer, after offer, after offer,” adding that “Nancy continues to move the goalposts.” He also criticized Senate Democrats for blocking a pared-down relief bill last week—a bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) described as “inadequate” and a “stunt” designed to get Senate Democrats voting on the record against more relief measures. 

Big Number

13. That’s how many Senate Republicans would need to vote for the new stimulus package (assuming that all Democrats also vote in favor) for it to pass and continue to President Trump’s to become law. So far, there’s no indication that this many Senate Republicans are ready to support the deal, even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has committed to putting it on the Senate floor for a vote. 

Crucial Quote

“It could happen this week in the House,” Pelosi said Sunday after being asked whether a bill could pass before the election. The Speaker had previously said the bill’s text needed to be finalized by last Friday in order to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law before November 3. “But that’s up to [McConnell] as to whether it would happen in the Senate.” 

Key Background

Much of the early discussion surrounding stimulus negotiations between the White House and Pelosi focused on the price tag of the bill. Pelosi’s latest offer to the White House—a pared-down version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act—is worth about $2.2 trillion. The White House’s most recent proposal is worth about $1.8 trillion. While the $400 billion gulf between the two plans is important (and the price tag overall remains an issue for Senate Republicans, most of whom simply aren’t willing to support spending at levels this high), discussions have now shifted to the way that money is appropriated within the bill itself. That’s part of the reason Pelosi has said she won’t just accept the White House’s offer as-is, even at the urging of some within the Democratic caucus, and part of the reason why Democrats are so focused on the legislative language surrounding coronavirus testing and tracing provisions in the bill: to avoid giving Trump what Pelosi has called a “slush fund” to “spend any way he wants.” 

Further Reading

Pelosi Says Stimulus Bill Could Happen Before Election–But That Seems Unlikely (Forbes)

Pelosi: ‘We’ve Come To Terms’ On Stimulus Checks, Healthcare Spending—But Differences Remain On State And Local Aid, Liability Protections (Forbes)

These Are The Biggest Obstacles To A Stimulus Deal (Forbes)

House Speaker Pelosi Says ‘There Will Be’ A Stimulus Bill, Either Before Or After The Election (Forbes)



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